Behind the green door on Lygon street, you’ll find one of the newest eateries in Brunswick East. It’s a Mexican, tapas style affair, but more fine dining than most. If you’re looking for tex -mex or loaded plates you won’t find it here.
This is a truly stunning venue, your eyes are immediately drawn to the pretty lights, the textured teal walls and the contrast tiling on the bar. We didn’t book, just wandered over, but unfortunately half of Brunswick seemed to have done the same, even relatively early on a Sunday night. We were lucky to get a seat at the bar but it was comfortable enough and a great location to people watch.
The best service we had was from the bartender working directly in front of us. He was attentive, and it was great to watch the care taken and he made our drinks. Their signature inca punch, served in a coconut shell was a standout.
Besides our attentive bartender we didn’t have much luck with the service at Lady Carolina, being seated at the bar left us rather neglected by the waitstaff. The staff were friendly and knowledgeable when they eventually got to us, but they were busy and there were lots of large gaps and times when we were simply unable to get anyone’s attention.
Luckily, we were given toasted corn kernels to nibble on while we waited. They were delicious, something we haven’t tried before. They had a nice crunch, a light seasoning of salt and spice to simulate the palette. We’ll be looking out for corn nuts on menus in the future, they’re such a unique and delightful snack.
Our first dish was the tres guacamole. A selection of three guac’s served with chips, our selections were the bacon and pomegranate, the naked guacamole and greens. Surprisingly the greens were the standout choice. It was light and fresh, while the bacon felt too heavy and sweet. but the naked was too simple. What is most outstanding was that all three had completely different flavour profile. It wasn’t just the same base, with some different ‘chunky’ bits added. Each was their own dish, different the whole way through, including the texture, flavour and mouth feel.
We followed up our stellar start with a prawn ceviche. We weren’t entirely sure what we were getting and ordered a single serve for $8. What arrived was a single prawn, beautifully plump and adorned with peanut satay and salad. The prawn itself was an example of wonderful produce, meaty and flavourful.
Our mains started with the suckling pig. We were hoping for tender meat, lots of flavour and a bit of flair. Unfortunately the meat was a little dry, and the flavours just didn’t excite. It wasn’t necessarily a bad dish, we had just been hoping for more, especially given the $32 price tag and the promise of the previous dishes.
We also ordered the carrot with mole as a side to the pork. It was nice but just a bit too heavy for what we were craving. A firmer carrot with something a little extra, such as some orange or lemon to freshen the dish would have really helped. We clearly made the wrong decision in opting for a heavy side with the already rich pork.
We at least ordered correctly in the size stakes, feeling that we’d consumed an elegant sufficiency; not too little or too much. To ruin the balance completely we asked for the dessert menu. The service was once again terrible, even to get their attention for the menu and to place our orders after that was ridiculous. It wasn’t the best impression to leave on diners, even those who had otherwise enjoyed their meal.
We made two selections for dessert, going with the waitress’ recommendations.
The first was a pumpkin based dessert, sticky and moist with a pudding texture that melted in your mouth. We were less keen on the fruits it was served with, we couldn’t tell you what they were because they didn’t really taste like anything in particular.
The second dish was much more successful. A purple corn pavlova, served with rhubarb and goats milk cream and presently beautifully and vibrantly on the plate. The pavlova itself was dense, lacking the airy lightness you hope for, but still with a crispy shell. Even so we couldn’t fault the flavours and adored the creamy goats cheese hidden inside.
It’s a shame the service was so lacking on our visit. Especially given we enjoyed the food on offer at Lady Carolina. Hopefully with a bit more time under their belt this will begin to improve.